Thursday, February 7, 2008

Week of February 3, 2008

Toxic plastics and children: Senator Rummel is the chief author of a bill to ban the use of several toxic ingredients in children's plastic toys and containers. These plasticizers, bisphenol A and phthalates, would be banned for children under three years old. Recent test show that many baby bottles, when heated, will leach bisphenol A into the bottle's contents. For more information, check out the Healthy Legacy web site.

Scrap metal thefts down and arrests up: Cities around the state have been using the new law that I worked on in 2007 to combat the theft of copper and other metals. The Minneapolis police just contacted me with some statistics that show that since the law went into effect, the number of reported thefts has declined significantly. Several people are being prosecuted under the new law as well.

Schedule: On Monday afternoon, I attended a joint House-Senate energy hearing on peak oil. Peak oil is the concept that our global petroleum output has peaked at roughly 80 million barrels a day and is going to decline. The speaker was Matthew R. Simmons of Simmons & Company International in Houston. There is a blog on peak oil at The Oil Drum. At best, we would see tight supply worldwide leading to oil prices that creep higher. At worst, we could see a rapid production drop-off that would lead to significant economic, social, and political chaos. This presentation certainly could get you worked up into a frenzy so I tried to ask questions that would focus on what the real risk is.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I stopped briefly at an event for the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. The event was at Tria in North Oaks. Nice place. I noticed artwork by Jerome Hill, grandson of James J. Hill, and by another Hill descendant, Mari Hill Harpur. Jerome Hill was the brother of Louis W. Hill, Jr., who ran the North Oaks Company for many years. Louis W. Hill, Jr. was a St. Paul legislator for our area from 1937 to 1952.

Then it was off to the precinct caucuses. Holy cow! Our precinct caucuses were at Chippewa Middle School and Centennial High School. Altogether there were 1,900 people who came. There are several legislative proposals moving forward that would address the issue of whether we have caucuses or a presidential primary or both. It was a long night!

On Wednesday morning, I attended a meeting of local government officials and legislators about the Rush Line transit corridor that would run up Highway 61 and 35W from St. Paul to roughly Hinckley. There is a request for operating dollars for a bus line to run down this corridor in the next year or two, as well as some bonding money for facilities. In reviewing this line during the last few months, I don't know that a huge number of constituents will take the line--we are more likely to use park-and-rides in Lino Lakes and Blaine--but it would take people off of 35E and 35W so that we have fewer cars on the road, which therefore benefits our district. In the afternoon, I attended a meeting of legislators working on climate change issues. (I have some recycling and composting legislation moving forward that will help to reduce carbon emissions.)

On Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Solid Waste Association of North America, and heard a presentation on the metropolitan wastewater treatment plant. We then took a tour of the plant. All cities in district 53A send their wastewater (other than those homes on septic systems) to this plant. You can take an on-line tour here. The average person creates 48 gallons per day of wastewater in their home. (At my house we were down to 54 gallons for four people last quarter.) In the evening, I attended a Blaine City Council meeting with Senator Betzold to update the council on the upcoming legislative session.

On Friday, I attended the Senate committee responsible for hearing environmental bonding projects for the capital investment bill. One of the bills is the $2.3 million bonding bill for completing the Rice Creek North regional trail in Lino Lakes. I had to leave early but they did hear the bill after 3 and a half hours of other bills! In the afternoon, I attended a meeting of Rep. Bunn's working group on Health Department initiatives related to east metro pollution by 3M chemicals like PFCs. (There is some relevance of this group's work to the contaminated well situation in North Oaks.)

In between all of these meetings, I and other legislators were scrambling to get our bills ready for the first day of session. Committee chairs have requested that we introduce our bills as early as possible and complete a request for a hearing in their committees so that they can schedule bills. There will only be about five weeks available to hear bills before our committee deadlines hit on March 14. I've got about 15 bills in the works.

Visitors: House researcher about my drinking water bill; lobbyist from Minnesota Association of Auto Dealers against proposed "clean car" legislation that would require new cars in MN comply with California's emission standards; staff and lobbyists for SKB Environmental, a company that owns construction debris and industrial waste landfills about my solid waste bill; lobbyists for the League of Greater Minnesota Cities about annexation issues; lobbyist for Waste Management and the MN Chamber of Commerce on my solid waste bill (I am also getting e-mail comments from government and nonprofit organizations about the bill too); committee administrator for the drinking water subcommittee; lobbyist for Qwest about statewide cable franchising bill; lobbyists for MN Beverage Association and Midwest Coca-Cola Corp. about my solid waste bill

(One of my bills deals with solid waste, recycling, and composting. In an experiment to avoid time-consuming hang-ups in committee later, I sent out a draft of my bill to stakeholders in the field to get their comments about technical aspects and interpretations of the intent of the bill so I can make corrections ahead of time. So that's why a bunch of them are visiting with me.)

Constituent contacts: Circle Pines resident supporting dedicated funding for the outdoors; Shoreview resident supporting a gas tax increase and better striping on the highways; Shoreview resident supporting ban on using cell phones while driving; two Shoreview residents, four Lino Lakes residents supporting Rule of 90; Shoreview resident supporting Rep. Winkler's bill for a compensation fund for survivors of the 35W bridge collapse; Shoreview resident about a local land issue in Pine County; Shoreview resident about large hog feedlots and a virus that is being spread from these operations to humans; Lino Lakes resident against banning the hunting of mourning doves; Circle Pines resident supporting greater enforcement of immigration laws; North Oaks resident about health care issues; Shoreview resident about bike trail funding; Lino Lakes resident supporting a bill about athletic trainer qualifications; also a lot of opposition at precinct caucuses by Circle Pines residents about the possible closure of the Circle Pines library